Interview with Plancast CEO Mark Hendrickson Part 1

Interview with Plancast CEO Mark Hendrickson Part 1
Earlier this week at SXSWi in Austin, we had a chance to sit down and talk with Plancast CEO Mark Hendrickson. Plancast was one of the most talked about startups at SXSWi, and a number of attendees used the service and its new launched iPhone app to try to navigate the many panels, events and parties during the five day event. Below is a transcript of the first part of the interview.

TNW Location: In one sentence, what is Plancast?

Hendrickson: Plancast is a simple way for individuals to express what they are going to do in the future.

TNW Location: For SXSW you launched an iPhone app. How has that been going?

Hendrickson: It’s been going great. We launched on Thursday night and then released another version on Friday that was more compatible with iPhones. We don’t have any tracking for usage, because we didn’t put it in, but we have over 2,000 downloads. People seem to be using it all around SXSW to basically see what people are up to, all the panels and parties and events they’re going to.

TNW Location: As we wrote in our review when you launched the iPhone app, there is no check-in functionality. What are your plans to either add that kind of functionality, or do you think it isn’t necessary?

Hendrickson: Well, I think it’s yet to be determined whether it makes sense for us to integrate checkins. If you look at a place like SXSW, it’s very different than most social circumstances. It’s important for us to not get scewed by what’s going on at SXSW versus normal day life. I think at SXSW there are plenty of check-in solutions such as Foursquare and Gowalla. You can also have live discussions on Hot Potato.

So first off, we view it as a semi-saturated market. There are different types of checkin solutions, so they’re not all the same, but for us to go into that we’d have to make sure that we have something quite differentiated. Really the ideas that have been floated to us mostly, have to do with, if you’re planning on going somewhere, how do you then verify that you’ve actually shown up?

At least in my experience at SXSW, that hasn’t been terribly needed, because everyone somewhat expects your plans to fall through to some extent. So when people plan something at SXSW, it’s mostly as a way to mark for yourself and for your friends that it’s something you’re interested in. Probably most people will show up to a fourth or a fifth that they plan to. I’ve found that when I go to parties, a lot of people are just content with Foursquare or Gowalla. That cross-referencing to who actually planned to be here… I’m not really sure what the value of that information is.

TNW Location: So we assume at some point you will work with sponsored events, and then they would like to not only know how plans to show up, but who actually does show. Are we right?

Hendrickson: Yes, that’s something that is very interesting to us. What we will actually do in that regard, we’ll have to see. I think it’s important to look at the value that we offer to different types of people. There’s the value to the event organizers and there’s the value to the people that are actually attending the event. What I think of first of all, is how do I create value to the people that are going to things. We’re very much an individual-centric type of service, and not really an organizer type service. [However], I can certainly see the value of tracking the activation rate of people that said they were going to come to their events. You might want that as a metric, you might want to be able to respond to people that did or didn’t show up for the event – that’s cool data.

TNW Location: Are you building a dashboard for event organizers?

We’re currently not building anything like that. We’re really focused on our core compentcy right now. But what happens in 6-12 months is anyone’s guess. One thing that might make sense for us more than trying to do a check-in service, is for all of these services; ours, Foursquare, Gowalla, to be able to unify our identities better. Whether it’s leveraging something like Facebook Connect or Twitter sign-in, the state of distributed identity is very poor right now.

It’s a sad fact that there is no way for us to easily talk with Foursquare to match up our users. It would take a pretty custom integration. I would like to see where it evolves to the point that someone could plan something on Plancast, and then Foursquare could then take that plan data and then actually check who actually check-in around the time they were planning on being somewhere, and could then pipe that out through an API to whoever else wants to use it.

So maybe they [third party developers] would want to create a dashboard. That could maybe let the event organizer, who set up the event on Eventbrite, then pull in checkins from Foursquare or plans from Plancast or wherever, and then run this kind of analysis on the data. So I don’t think you need on service doing all of the functionality for the data to be created.

TNW Location: In addition to identity interoperability, there is also place interoperability – is that something that is high on your list as well?

Hendrickson: Geographic data is a very interesting space right now. I mean we have some very major players in it. SimpleGEO is focused on it as a business model. They don’t care about providing consumer services, they want to have the best data sets that pertains to geography. Then you have companies such as Foursquare and Gowalla – and I’m not exactly sure how they handle their geo-data, but I believe that they each have their own databases built out.

Continue reading Part 2 of this interview.

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